Footsteps into the forgotten : consuming obsolescence

Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2016
Thesis identifier
  • T14554
Person Identifier (Local)
  • 201394398
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • This thesis develops a novel understanding of obsolescent consumption through the context of urban exploration by exploring how consumers engage with the spatialities, temporalities and materialities of obsolescence. Urban exploration is a subculture of individuals who explore and photograph abandoned buildings and is driven by a shared appreciation of ‘beauty in decay’. Whilst growing research examines the end stages of consumption, issues of obsolescence, inactivity and disuse remain under-researched within the consumption domain. Through an ethnography, this research uses in-depth interviews, netnography and sensory ethnographic fieldwork to explore consumers’ experiences, meaning-making and value production from their encounters with obsolescence. This thesis broadens understandings of waste by introducing ‘obsolescent consumption’ as a significant domain in consumer culture where consumers engage with obsolescence for its own sake and values of neglect, termination and alterity. Findings reveal that consumers can reawaken obsolescent spaces and introduce the notion of ‘temporary placemaking’ where space transiently transforms into place. Furthermore, this research conceptualises the death of obsolescent objects that deepens neo-materialist discussions within Consumer Culture Theory and moves our understanding beyond intangible value and towards material jeopardy. Finally, this thesis demonstrates how obsolescent things can be returned to marketplace circulation through ‘iconic reintegration’ that is driven by consumers’ attempts to legitimise alternative values of obsolescence and develop societal gift giving as a form of remembrance. Overall, this thesis demonstrates that obsolescence is not necessarily the end stage of consumption, but rather can be the beginning of consumer fascination.
Advisor / supervisor
  • Tonner, Andrea
  • Hamilton, Kathy
Resource Type
  • Previously held under moratorium from 25 April 2017 until 25 April 2022
Date Created
  • 2016
Former identifier
  • 9912573192002996